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WPGM Recommends: Ayra Starr – The Year I Turned 21 (Album Review)

Get ready for the ultimate coming-of-age vibe with Ayra Starr’s new album, The Year I Turned 21! This Gen Z queen is bringing her most personal stories to the table, mixed with those empowering anthems we all love.

Ayra takes us on a ride through themes of growth, love, heartbreak, and finding your inner power, all wrapped up in her signature style. This album shows off a fresh artistic maturity, born from the wild year this Nigerian star has experienced. If you’re ready for a soundtrack to your own glow-up, Ayra Starr’s got you covered!

I had the utmost pleasure of attending the young star’s album release party at Republic Records. Ayra’s upbeat and welcoming energy had everyone feeling right at home. She took us on the journey through every individual song, and even had the track list as included in her album art work.

Ayra Starr opened up about making music with her brother Milar, who co-wrote some tracks on her iconic 19 & Dangerous album. Now, he’s back as a featured artist on her new album, The Year I Turned 21. This sibling duo is seriously unstoppable!

The first song “Birds Sing Of Money” is an absolute vibe! As Ayra put it her self, “the first song was just to flex on you guys.” The beat put you in an automatic trance with a desire to dance.

On the album, Ayra Starr stated, “This is a coming-of-age story. The rollercoaster of emotions and genres intertwined tells the story of a 21-year-old African girl and superstar. Twenty one isn’t just an age, it’s a moment of change in your life. A time of necessary growth, hurt, realizing your power… love. Not everybody’s ’21’ happens at 21. Whenever it is for you; learn from it, feel through it… that’s what matters.”

On one of the more emotive stories told on the album, “Last Heartbreak Song,” Ayra Starr cuts herself off from a one-sided relationship and goes straight into self-protection mode. In a push-and-pull with American R&B heavyweight Giveon, she vows over atmospheric beats, “This is my last heartbreak song, I’ll be better on my own.”

The masterful body of work also features “Commas”, Ayra Starr’s feel-good hit, which has exceeded 100 million streams across all platforms in just two months and spent five weeks on top of the Official UK Afrobeats Chart. Keeping up the confident vibes, Ayra Starr ropes in Anitta and Coco Jones for the empowering “Woman Commando.” Fusing urgent afrobeats rhythms with Latin pop and R&B; this global ‘Sabi Girl’ anthem is poised to soundtrack the summer.

Throughout the album, Ayra Starr shows an uncompromising focus on self-care and personal growth – a mindfulness well beyond her years. Tracks like “Bad Vibes”, featuring renowned Nigerian wordsmith Seyi Vibez, hears her doubling down on her commitment to protect her energy from negativity.

On the magnetic “Warm Up” featuring Asake, Ayra Starr experiments with jazz with an effortless, free-flowing cadence as she taunts an ex before moving on to the next. “Now you miss my warm touch… it’s a warm up to my next.” On the other hand, rose-colored love songs like the soulful “Rhythm & Blues” and “Lagos Love Story” show rare glimpses of Ayra Starr allowing herself to be carried away in the moment.

“Control” is a seductive siren’s call set in a lively Havana bar. With summery guitars and hip-swaying rhythms reminiscent of Shakira’s “Hips Don’t Lie,” it effortlessly captures the essence of a sultry, vibrant night.

Ayra Starr shines brightest in the raw, personal tracks on The Year I Turned 21. The album’s centerpiece, “21,” captures a rollercoaster of emotions, blending youthful bravado with moments of self-doubt. It’s an unfiltered snapshot of that transitional period in life, where you feel both inexperienced and wise beyond your years.

The deeply personal album closer, “The Kids Are Alright,” is written for her late father who passed away before she became “Ayra Starr,” and features voice notes from her siblings and mother. She also shared that a lot of her music is written with her brother and that she owes a lot to him.

This summer is shaping up to be yet another monumental season for Ayra Starr, who has now amassed over 1 billion global streams. Following her critically-lauded, sold-out first world tour last year, she is set to make her Glastonbury Festival debut on the Pyramid Stage next month, building on the incredible momentum around the album release.

Ayra Starr’s The Year I Turned 21 album was released on May 30 via Mavin Records and Republic Records. Listen to it below, and stream it everywhere else here.

Words by Shirley Reynozo

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